Culture vs maternal health (the story of Chrissy Thotho)

Another day. Another birth on the road side. Another figure on the statistics? Group Village Headman Kambomi, Traditional Authority Msakambewa says no more, “every life counts”.

This is the story of Chrissy Thotho, where traditional priorities comes at a cost.

She and her husband, lived 50 kilometers away from a health facility. They had planned to timely visit the hospital for their expected baby. Unfortunately, her father-in-law got sick. She was, as per tradition, required to help in the nursing of the father in-law.

One night, her labour pains begun. She ignore them. She talked to a few women about it. But did nothing further because, her father-in-law had died and funeral proceedings took centre stage.

“Labour pains started at night. Unfortunately there was a funeral of my father in-law. So I had to wait till morning.”

In some traditions, it is a silent but powerful rule that the death of a close influential senior citizen like a father in-law, gets prioritized above all other activities. This is in respect of the departed.

In the morning, she narrates, my husband arranged for transport to the hospital. We got on a motor bicycle. Half way through the journey trouble strikes. The motor bike run out of fuel.

“At this point I broke my water and I was taken to a nearby house, where I gave birth to a baby boy,” said Chrissy and she was quick to add: “Thereafter we proceeded to the hospital for medical examination and treatment.”

As the Radio Listeners Club covered the story, Village Head Chilondola, called for a meeting where RLC and the trained theatre club sensitized the communities on the importance of prioritizing maternal health issues and giving birth at a health facility.

“Culture and traditional values are important but the life of a human being, especially of the expectant mother is paramount,” he said.

Chrissy’s husband’s reaction was that of a man caught in between, “Am not happy. On one hand the sickness and death of my father required support from my wife and on the other hand, my wife needed much support as she was expecting our baby.”

He said, “Since the incidence of my wife giving birth on the way to the hospital, am ashamed to walk around. We have four children and all of them were born at a hospital, only this one was born on the road.”

He concluded by saying: “Now am knowledgeable. I would opt to take my wife to the hospital in good time. Thanks to the RLCs for the awareness. The RLC are truly “making waves” in that while they identify themselves with our various traditions and cultural beliefs, they are going against negative cultural norms, working in rebellion against forces that keep our expectant mothers down, and broadcasting tales that were previously unheard of. This is good for development.”

On her part, Chrissy’s last words were, “am a lesson to other women, we should always adhere to medical advice of getting to the hospital in time.”

The RLC and theatre groups, have since jointly conducted several sensitization activities in the village.

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